Former England rugby union star James Haskell has signed a contract with mixed martial arts promotion Bellator.

Haskell, who made 77 Test appearances, in May announced the end of his 17-year rugby career, which included three Six Nations titles and a Grand Slam in 2016.

The 34-year-old trained in MMA while playing rugby and is expected to make his debut in the cage in 2020.

A Bellator statement read: "Leading mixed martial arts promotion Bellator MMA is excited to announce the signing of international rugby star James Haskell to its elite roster of athletes.

"Haskell will compete in the Bellator heavyweight division and is expected to make his professional MMA debut for the global promotion in 2020."

Daniel Cormier insists he will not make a decision on his retirement based on emotion after the 40-year-old lost his heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic at UFC 241.

Cormier's rematch with Miocic was ended in the fourth round on Saturday, with the latter having landed a flurry of body punches.

Miocic (19-3) was fighting for the first time since losing his title to Cormier (22-2) at UFC 226 in July 2018.

Prior to the bout, Cormier's coach Javier Mendez had suggested the fighter should retire, rather than take on Jon Jones - who labelled Miocic "the greatest heavyweight of all time" - in a trilogy fight.

Asked about the possibility of calling it a day, Cormier conceded he must take serious consideration over his next move.

"You don't make decisions based on emotions. But this is a tough pill to swallow," he said.

"At 40 years old, and so many other opportunities [available], I need to speak to my wife and make an educated decision as to what we're going to do."

Cormier added when asked where the fight went wrong for him: "I think [Miocic] made great body shots. He hit me with a number of right hands and I didn't really feel anything, so maybe I took those for granted.

"He landed a great one and did a good job of following up. He's a fantastic champion, congratulations to him and his team."

UFC president Dana White, meanwhile, advised Cormier to take time over his decision.

"I don't know what the future is for Cormier," White said in the post-fight press conference.

"I told him, 'Don't think about whether you want to fight again, you don't want to fight again and any of that stuff. Just relax. Go home and spend some time with your family and we'll talk about all that s*** later'."

Elsewhere, welterweight star Nate Diaz (20-11) defeated Anthony Pettis (22-9) by unanimous decision in his first appearance since losing his rematch against Conor McGregor in 2016.

A trilogy fight against McGregor could now be on the cards and Diaz is open to reigniting his rivalry with the Irishman.

"I'm gonna fight the baddest dudes at the biggest shows, that's what I want to do," Diaz said. "If it's up to everyone who is involved, if they want it, they're going to call me."

Stipe Miocic reclaimed the heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout of Daniel Cormier at UFC 241, while Nate Diaz enjoyed a winning return.

Saturday's rematch went in favour of Miocic, who used a flurry of punches late in the bout to trouble Cormier before the referee stopped the fight at four minutes, nine seconds.

Miocic (19-3) was fighting for the first time since losing his title to Cormier (22-2) at UFC 226 in July 2018, ending the latter's nine-fight undefeated streak – dating back to January 2015.

Cormier got off to a fast start at Honda Center in Anaheim, where he landed several hard punches before slamming Miocic into the canvas during the opening round.

Miocic was more aggressive in the second round, though champion Cormier continued to cause problems inside the octagon.

The pair exchanged blows in round three, though neither took a back step, despite Cormier stunning Miocic with a right hand in the closing minute.

Miocic shocked Cormier in the fourth and he went on the attack, prompting the referee to halt proceedings as the former became the fourth UFC heavyweight champion to lose his belt and regain it.

Elsewhere, welterweight star Diaz (20-11) defeated Anthony Pettis (22-9) by unanimous decision in the co-main event on Saturday in his first appearance since losing his rematch against Conor McGregor in 2016.

Meanwhile, Paulo Costa edged Yoel Romero in an epic middleweight clash that was decided by unanimous decision.

Volkan Oezdemir will be fuelled by the "anger" of his controversial defeat to Dominick Reyes when he faces Ilir Latifi at UFC Uruguay on Saturday.

Oezdemir was left fuming when Reyes was awarded a split decision in London almost five months ago.

Former Swiss light heavyweight title challenger Oezdemir has suffered three consecutive defeats after surging to the top of the division.

The 29-year-old plans to take his frustration out on Latifi at the Antel Arena in Montevideo in a fight that was postponed at the start of June after the Swede suffered a back injury.

Reflecting on his defeat to Reyes, Oezdemir told Omnisport: "It's something that has given me extra motivation, to go back to the win column.

"I need to prove to everybody that I am still here and that is a good thing for me, I am going to feed off that anger.

"Defeats show you what you need to work on. If you win and everything goes well, maybe you don't think there are things to improve on.  When you lose you want to speed up your improvement and I've worked on becoming a more complete fighter.

"My last defeat against Reyes made me realise I cannot rely on the judges. I might have taken the fight a little too cautiously as I knew I was winning. I got really upset when I heard the decision, I couldn't believe they saw the fight differently.

"It was a huge disappointment on the night, but I knew straight away I needed to look ahead to another fight and I was offered the Latifi fight that very same night in London, which gave me something to focus on."

Oezdemir feels Latifi's injury setback a couple of months ago could turn out to be a blessing.

He added: "It was a good thing as it gave me more time to get in even better shape and I feel in my body that I am. I knew I would have got the win but right now I'm sure I'm going to put on a better show.

"Before I was due to fight him the first time I worked on techniques and strategies. This time I could perfect that gameplan and make sure I have sharpened my tools."

MMA legend Georges St-Pierre has closed the door on a potential UFC return, saying that chapter of his life is over.

St-Pierre announced his retirement in February but later said he was open to the idea of a comeback.

It was reported Khabib Nurmagomedov had a clause to fight St-Pierre in his contract, a bout that would have interested the former welterweight and middleweight champion.

However, UFC president Dana White poured cold water on that idea last month, claiming the Canadian breaking a promise to defend the middleweight title after dethroning Michael Bisping at UFC 217 was behind his decision.

St-Pierre now says he has other priorities in his life that trump his desire to fight.

Speaking to TSN, he said: "It [fighting Khabib] was on my mind when I retired, I really wanted to do it. 

"But now, telling you the truth, the UFC were clear, they had other plans for Khabib. So, I turned a page. 

"I cannot wait for the fight to happen and twiddle my thumbs, I have other plans for my life. Being the best fighter in the world is not my number one priority anymore. 

"It used to be, now it's not. I have family, friends, I have a lot of more important things to do. I have other projects down the road."

St-Pierre added he will not change his mind even if the UFC altered its stance and offered a proposal to mix it with Khabib in the octagon.

"I'm always training, I'm always in good shape, I will always be," he said. "But competition, for me, it's a chapter of my life that is over."

A blockbuster cross-sport bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Khabib Nurmagomedov is unlikely to happen, according to Michael Bisping.

Mayweather - who defeated UFC superstar Conor McGregor in 10 rounds in 2017 - and Nurmagomedov have continually talked up the possibility of facing off, with the latter having beaten McGregor in the Irishman's most recent UFC appearance last October.

However, former UFC middleweight champion Bisping believes the mixed martial arts company is unlikely to want to set a precedent by allowing the lightweight title holder to fight the retired unbeaten five-weight world champion in the boxing ring.

Asked by Omnisport if he would have interest in a contest between the two, Bisping told Omnisport: "Not really but I would watch it for sure. I'd definitely tune in.

"Mayweather would win, we all know that, but it's always interesting to see somebody at the top of mixed martial arts taking on a boxer but I don't think that's gonna happen, I really don't.

"Mayweather talks about it, Khabib talks about it, I don't think the UFC will allow it because we're all under contract with the UFC.

"They broke the mould in doing that with McGregor, I think if they continue to do that and form a pattern then more and more fighters are going to want to do that and it starts creating legal problems with contracts and things like that."

Nurmagomedov this month completed a suspension handed down by the Nevada Athletic Commission after sparking ugly scenes in the wake of his win over McGregor by leaping out of the octagon and charging towards his opponent's cornerman Dillon Danis.

He will return in a lightweight unification bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 on September 7.

Michael Bisping feels "very lucky" to have enjoyed a great UFC career after becoming "obsessed" with mixed martial arts in his youth.

Born in Cyprus but raised in Lancashire, Bisping became Britain's first UFC champion when he sensationally knocked out rival Luke Rockhold in June 2016 to claim the middleweight belt.

'The Count' puts that result high on the list of his achievements inside the octagon, particularly as he took the fight at short notice and had previously lost to Rockhold.

Bisping went on to successfully defend the title on home soil in Manchester, defeating Dan Henderson, while his impressive resume also includes a victory over the legendary Anderson Silva.

"Beating Anderson Silva at the time was massive – I always wanted to fight him for obvious reasons, he was a long-time champion and the greatest of all time," Bisping - speaking following the launch of his autobiography 'Quitters Never Win' - told Omnisport.

"But then I fought for the belt and won the belt, so winning the title obviously trumps that. Then defending the belt in Manchester, in England, was definitely a high point.

"I'm very lucky I've had a great career – many highs and several lows as well. It was great."

Bisping's success came during a boom period for UFC, though it was a fictional boxing character with a never-give-up attitude who helped inspire him when growing up.

"I started off doing martial arts when I was eight years old. I loved action movies and martial arts movies when I was a kid and the 'Rocky' movies particularly," he explained.

"I was inspired by those types of movies and then my older brother Konrad went to a jiu-jitsu class and I tagged along and just fell in love with it. I became obsessed with martial arts.

"My dad would drive me all over the country going to tournaments and things and I always had a lot of success at it and really enjoyed it. Then, as I got older, it seemed like a natural progression.

"Mixed martial arts was doing well, it was getting bigger and bigger, more money becoming involved with the sport and unfortunately I didn't go down the whole education route either, so my options were limited but I know with my martial arts background this was a viable option."

The 40-year-old announced his retirement in 2018 having kept secret a spell in prison prior to his MMA career. However, he was happy to be honest about his past while writing the book.

"I did have a little couple of brushes with the law when I was younger and I always kept that [time in prison] quiet until now because I didn't want that stigma to effect myself, or the public perception of the sport, so it wasn't necessarily important," Bisping revealed.

"I kept that to myself, but obviously if I am going to write a book, I've got to tell the truth and I have to be honest."

There is never a dull day in the NBA, but this past weekend may have been the craziest moment in league history.

We will get to that in a second, but we will also touch on the Home Run Derby and the Houston Texans who are looking like a train wreck once again.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Clippers eclipse Lakers

This was as crazy of an NBA offseason as there has ever been. An MVP candidate (Anthony Davis) was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, two stars signed with the Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving), the Boston Celtics reloaded with an All-NBA guard (Kemba Walker) and the New York Knicks are the Knicks.

But all of that news paled in comparison to what happened in the wee hours of Saturday morning when news broke the Los Angeles Clippers were going to get both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While the Leonard news broke first, what we came to find out was Leonard had convinced George to accept a trade to Los Angeles from the Oklahoma City Thunder. So, while he signed seemingly on his own with the Clippers, what actually went down was the George trade was agreed to which sealed Leonard's move to Los Angeles.

Now the Clippers and Lakers have even odds to win the NBA Finals next year, but the Clippers have much of the momentum and possibly the best defensive tandem in the NBA in George, Leonard and Patrick Beverley. The Western Conference is going to be fun next year.

 

2. Home Run Derby for the ages

For years the Home Run Derby has been stale. A few years ago, the MLB was forced to change the format from 10 outs to a timed round in which players could hit as many pitches as they want rather than being selective and taking pitch after pitch. Some rounds would seem to creep into the 30-minute range and fans were losing interest.

Absolutely no interest was lost on Monday though in a Home Run Derby for the ages. This derby featured a man (Joc Pederson) who hit 39 home runs in a round and lost (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit 40) and an event where a rookie bashed 91 balls over the fence and did not win (Guerrero).

There were 321 total homers in the event and the final between two rookies (Guerrero and Alonso) took three overtimes to decide. The Home Run Derby was not boring this year, it was what a Derby was always supposed to be.

 

3. Drama in Houston

The Houston Texans have been one of the better organisations in the NFL over the last several years as they have made the playoffs three of the last four seasons while winning their division five times since 2011. But all that success seems to be in spite of themselves and this offseason is a perfect example as to why.

Houston selected Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick in 2014. He has 29 sacks and 67 quarterback hits in his career and has been named to three Pro Bowls while missing a total of six games over the last four years. And yet, the Texans do not want to sign him to a long-term deal. In fact, they likely will not be signing him to a long-term deal at all this offseason, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

Even more damning may be the team's ineptitude in the front office. General manager Rick Smith left last year to take care of his sick wife, but it was reported he did so because of a rift with Bill O'Brien. Then the man hired to replace Smith was fired after one year with the team, but after the Draft. Finally, the team decided on Thursday they were not going to hire a replacement GM and will run the team as a committee next season. The Texans are lucky to be in one of the worst divisions in the NFL, otherwise they may be getting more flak for their actions.

 

4. Chad Mendes retires

A former WEC title contender has retired. Chad Mendes, who accumulated an 18-5 record and had Conor McGregor beaten and bloodied on short notice, has decided to end his long and illustrious career in the WEC and UFC.

"I just want to say THANK YOU to all my fans and everyone that tuned in to watch me battle!" Mendes wrote on Instagram. "With 29 years of competing and 11 year in the Mma game, I feel it's time for the next chapter in my life! It's been an incredible journey with so many life lesson along the way. I feel extremely blessed to be living this life I live and can't wait to see what the next chapter has in store for me!"

 

5. Astros' Marisnick suspended two games

Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick has been suspended for two games after running over Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a game on Sunday, MLB announced on Thursday.

Lucroy sustained a concussion and broken nose on the play and manager Brad Ausmus called for Marisnick's suspension after the game as did St Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

Jorge Masvidal told Ben Askren "you don't belong at this level" after scoring a sensational record-breaking knockout in Saturday's grudge welterweight contest at UFC 239 in Las Vegas.

It took just five seconds for Masvidal to put the big-talking Askren down, after following up a brutal running knee that left his opponent unconscious with a couple of heavy blows on the mat.

Askren had never previously lost in his MMA career, albeit he earned a controversial submission win on his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler in March, and Masvidal shot into title contention after earning a huge victory in a fight where little love was lost.

Speaking to BT Sport, he said: "I wish the referee would have tripped on his way to breaking it up because I felt he deserved one more. 

"He's not a threat to me or my skillset. 

"I don't want to keep talking about the dude because I gave him what he deserved in a way. I'm just not a fan of his at all, so I'm glad I did it like that to show him you don't belong at this level."

The timing of Masvidal's win beat the previous best of six seconds set by Duane Ludwig.

"It [the record] feels great," he added. "I envisaged it, I saw it in my head a long time ago. I just knew he wouldn't have an answer to me.  

"Really in my mind I wanted to beat him for 14 minutes, outsmart him, outwrestle him, show him you're not me you know, you don't have the skillset."

On a blockbuster night in the Sin City, Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes defended their respective light heavyweight and bantamweight belts.

Jones needed a split points decision to overcome the tricky challenge of Thiago Santos after five rounds to earn a 25th career victory.

"Boy, was he tough," Jones said.

"We all knew Thiago's best chance was to knock me out. I played it smart and brought home this gold for my family and team.

"He was technically a lot more sound than I thought. Thiago Santos is a black belt in Muay Thai. I'm proud of myself, because I stood with a guy who's been kickboxing way longer than me."

In the co-main event, the dominant Nunes knocked out former world champion Holly Holm with a flush head kick in the first round, meaning she has beaten every woman to have held a title at either bantamweight or featherweight.

"People say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but this belt is going home with me," she said.

"During my warm-up, I knew I was going to get her. I told my coaches I wanted to knock her out the same way she knocks people out. I did it tonight. She was the only former champion I hadn't beaten yet. Now, I've beaten her and I'm very happy."

Jack Marshman has warned Edmen Shahbazyan he is in for a "rude awakening" at UFC 239 as he prepares to go to war in Las Vegas a day after leaving the army.

Middleweight Marshman was given a formal warning by the British Army after disobeying orders to fight John Phillips at UFC London in March.

The Welshman subsequently opted to quit his day job as a Paratrooper ahead of his fight with the unbeaten Shahbazyan at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday

Strong favourite Shahbazyan has vowed to "dominate every second" of the bout, but Marshman says the 21-year-old American's words will come back to bite him. 

Marshman told Omnisport: "He is 100 per cent in for a rude awakening. His striking isn't as good as mine and I'm not impressed with his wrestling or grappling. He's young and highly touted, which is giving him confidence. 

"His confidence is firing me up and I think he'll regret his comments come fight night."

Marshman (23-8) had planned to remain in the forces until November, but the 29-year-old is instead aiming sky high with his career in the Octagon.

"My long-term aims are to keep fighting and competing as I love it. I'm happy, I’ve achieved a lot over the years, I was the first welsh fighter in the UFC," he added. 

"I'd love to break into the top 10, that’s my next goal."


- UFC 239: JON JONES vs.THIAGO SANTOS coverage starts live on UFC FIGHT PASS, BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Box Office this Saturday at 11:15pm [BST] and continues exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office at 3:00am.

Floyd Mayweather Jr scored a brutal first-round knockout victory in a mismatched exhibition fight against Tenshin Nasukawa in Saitama.

Unbeaten boxing legend Mayweather rocked up to the arena late, causing a 90-minute delay to the scheduled fight time, with a flooded hotel lobby blamed for his delayed arrival.

But the American soon made up for lost time, knocking down his opponent twice before flooring him for a third and final time with a fierce right as the three-round exhibition, which was truthfully a pretty farcical affair, came to an abrupt end with around 40 seconds left in the first.

Undefeated kickboxer Nasukawa, who had vowed to "take down Mayweather" was left in tears in the ring but was hailed by his opponent, who claimed on Instagram he will earn $9million for the bout.

"I want to say thank you to Tenshin, it's about entertainment," he said in the ring. "Tenshin is still undefeated, I did this just to entertain the fans.

"I said, 'Why not?'. I'm still retired, still 50-0. Tenshin is a true champion and a hell of a fighter. Tenshin, hold your head up high, I want fans around the world to support Tenshin, he's a great guy and a great champion."

Khabib Nurmagomedov retained his lightweight belt at UFC 229 with a rear-naked choke of Conor McGregor in the fourth round, but the event ended in mayhem as further fighting broke out. 

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